Through facilitated cohort discussions, listening sessions with national and local experts, and review of the literature, the Community Equity Project fellows concluded that to sustain the movement toward equity, it must be institutionalized through policies and laws. They also recognized that to change the foundation and focus of policies and laws, the public as well as officials must understand inequities and adopt an equity lens. Two discovery teams explored these two components of moving toward equity and the cohort crafted a vision of what institutionalized equity looks like. Policies and laws will allow everyone access to the services they need; foster a culture of inclusion; and, protect and promote vulnerable populations.
Public Awareness & Education Campaign
The fellows recognized that the public’s understanding of equity varies greatly and that a key component of achieving equity is public awareness and education. The fellows believe that through a coordinated and sustained awareness and education campaign, the public will adopt an equity lens that allows for, fuels, and sustains equity. The public needs to grow awareness of current inequities and solutions to understand the rationale behind equity, particularly race equity, in order to support policy and law changes. The fellows envision that a major education campaign can fuel the pace of advocacy and policy efforts. They further understood that this effort must be coordinated, strategic, and multi-faceted. Both the general public and those in positions of power and decision making must acquire a new “lens” to understand and prioritize equity. They must learn the root of inequity. They must understand the impact of institutionalized racism and inequity on the overall well-being, life outcomes, and local economy. They must believe that a bigger pie is possible when we all commit to equity.
Policy & Legal Changes
For the fellows, the ultimate goal is a culture of equity where an equity lens is the norm and accountability to achieving and maintaining equity, including race equity, is standard in values, practice, and policy. To achieve this, the lens through which policies and laws are created and administered must be an equity lens (see Brief #1). The fellows encourage policy research and advocacy to identify and promote structural change and address institutional racism and inequity. They recognize the need to include the community via grassroots organizers (refer to Brief #2) to advance policies known to decrease inequities, particularly race inequities.
The fellows’ work underscored the need to understand the role and impact of policy on fueling inequities and, conversely, if intentional, on promoting equity. Communities operate in the context of federal, state, and policies that shape the passage of local laws, regulations, and the allocation of resources. Dismantling persistent, inequities requires changes in public policies and institutions at the federal, state, and local levels. Without fully accounting for the historical and ongoing policies shaped by and shaping inequity, it is likely that new policies and reform strategies are misguided, incomplete, or inappropriate to meet the needs of our diverse society. Thus, it is critical that research employing an equity lens is conducted to fully understand the past and current political and institutional factors that contribute to Wilmington’s current disparities. Additionally, lasting institutional and policy change occurs when the people most affected by issues lead efforts to develop solutions, and when those solutions address the root causes of the disparities.
The fellows identified several policy efforts that promote equity and provide a starting point for further development.
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – provides benefits to working people with low to moderate income
- Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) – provides additional tax credits to offset the costs of childcare that may prohibit or limit ability to work
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – provides benefits in the form of direct payment for the purchase of healthy foods
- Public Health Insurance (Medicaid Expansion) – allows for health insurance through Medicaid for most low-income adults up to 138% of the federal poverty level
- Affordable Housing (Vouchers and Zoning) – provides rental assistance for very low income families
The fellows recognize that these and other policies are limited because the current policy development process is siloed. The process does not reflect how we navigate and manage providing for ourselves and our families and allows, possibly creates, significant gaps in support and assistance for those in need. Current policies continue to be limited by siloed policy making and the fellows encourage efforts at the local level to promote coordinated and integrated policy development.
The fellows recommend action in both the public awareness and education and the policy development areas. They suggest the DCF:
- Support and promote a coordinated public awareness and education campaign, including:
- Hire a marketing firm.
- Build a landing page where further information, progress and action items can be viewed.
- Lead in creating a coordinated messaging.
- Delaware funders should finance a three-tier approach for supporting action-oriented research that advances equity and informs policymaking in Wilmington.
- The first tier should include support for a critical analysis of historical and current national, state, and local policies and laws that have informed and contributed to inequities in Wilmington in the following key focus areas: 1) Capital, Economic Stability, and Employment; 2) Criminal Justice; 3) Education and Workforce Training; 4) Natural Environment, Housing, and Built Environment; and 5) Health and Health Care.
- This analysis informs the second tier: the development of a policy road map with an implementation plan addressing financing strategy, cost-benefit analysis, monitoring plan, and advocacy plan.
- The third tier of funding should support the development of a publicly accessible website which includes an equity database and resources for addressing inequities in Wilmington and is accompanied by a communications and marketing strategy.
- Promote policy change by funding organizations working on legislative/systemic solutions and target spending on 1-2 issues to maximize impact.
The Community Equity Project cohort’s vision and the commitment to advance equity are influencing the work of the DCF. Explore DCF commitments and work at delcf.org/community.